MaryJo Marra-Hauser and Stephen Hauser

MaryJo Marra-Hauser was just 21 when she was diagnosed with lupus. A college student with her whole life ahead of her, MaryJo refused to accept the prognosis.

“My doctor [at the time] told me I was going to die,” the Connecticut resident recalls now, decades later. “But I said no. And it’s a mindset that I’ve kept with me this whole time.”

That mindset has characterized MaryJo’s decades-long battle with lupus, an autoimmune disease that would cause multiple serious health complications, including kidney failure. When it became evident that MaryJo would eventually need a kidney transplant, she and her husband, Stephen, searched for a care team that would become partners in her treatment goals: to avoid a kidney transplant for as long as possible while also helping her prepare for the surgery when she needed it. After an extensive, nationwide search, they found the right team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

With healthy lifestyle choices and the guidance of her Brigham nephrologist, Martina McGrath, MD, MaryJo kept her condition stable for 10 years—much longer than expected. But in late 2017, cardiac complications left her kidneys severely weakened.

“When Dr. McGrath told me I needed to start dialysis, I could tell it broke her heart as much as mine,” says MaryJo, who endured 11 months of dialysis. “Yet neither of us gave up on the hope that my transplant was coming.”

In the years since her successful transplant surgery at the Brigham, MaryJo and Stephen have reflected on their appreciation of the multidisciplinary team of Brigham specialists who made her surgery possible—including McGrath, who championed her treatment goals; Stefan Tullius, MD, chief of transplant surgery, who advocated for and performed the surgery; and cardiologist Yee-Ping Sun, MD, who worked with MaryJo to get her heart stronger for the transplant.

“I was lucky that I went to the Brigham when I did, because my doctors saved my life—twice,” MaryJo says. “They gave me the quality of life I have now, which I never had before the transplant.”

Grateful for her caregivers’ collaborative spirit, MaryJo and Stephen included the Brigham in their estate plans. They anticipate their bequest will provide more than $250,000 to advance research, education, and patient care in renal transplant medicine.

“Our bequest is a ‘thank you’ to the incredible people at the Brigham who never gave up,” MaryJo says. “I am grateful every day. I could never thank them enough for the gifts they have given me—a full life, hope, and freedom.”

To honor the couple’s generosity, the hospital welcomed them into The Brigham Legacy Society, which celebrates individuals committed to supporting the future of medicine. The Brigham also recognized the Hauser’s support by adding their names to the society’s donor wall, located on the second floor of the hospital’s main campus at 75 Francis Street.

“It’s a very nice feeling to know that, even though your gift is not going to happen for a while, it’s appreciated now,” MaryJo says.

“Our wish is for every person with kidney failure to have access to this level of care,” she continues. “While this cause may be too great for one person to fix, making a bequest is a way Stephen and I can move the future of transplant medicine forward.”